Everyone was speaking Japanese

I’ve always been fascinated with Japan. The culture, the scene, the art, the social dynamics. Its seems to me all at once plastic pop and raucous rock and roll, overly expressive steampunk techno heaven and every Japanese person’s silent, repressive hell. How much of this is assumption and fantasy, how much the PR facet and how much is just plain wrong, I don’t know.

I have just finished Pico Iyer’s Beginner’s Guide to Japan and have firm plans to explore this amazing country as the next leg of my world tour.

But I have a question…

What is up with your web design, Japan?

Super dense layouts, countless CTA’s and high cognitive load. I’m talking everyday websites, not designer portfolios or agency showreels – those tend towards the simpler, distilled UX of a more “Western” aesthetic.

I have to assume that Japanese web users are able to process much more information based on your website design trends. I found myself wondering whether Japanese websites mirror the daily reality of living in one of the Japanese mega cities where the visual landscape is a cacophony of colour, information and LED.

Then I began to wonder whether it is how your typography, your language and letterforms scale up that enable you to decode visual complexity so easily.

Or is it just that Japanese websites have always looked this way and your users are averse to change? This explanation would surprise me.

The site that sparked my curiosity again was the Japanese Designer Association website below:

Japen Designers Association

I would assume this website would reflect the latest in Japanese design as well as being a portal to important local design resources. The design is simpler than most Japanese websites but does it strike me as thoughtful, considered and creative? Hmm, not really. Sorry. To me it looks like a website from the 90’s. Legit. And the overall spacing, padding (and lack thereof) bothers my Western design sensibilities. But that’s a good thing. Making my mind itchier than a meth head scratching their brain demons. I’m posting this to a Japanese group I’ve recently joined on Facebook, hoping for some feedback, local or otherwise.

In the meantime I’m gonna read up on this perplexing Japanese web aesthetic. I’ll be back.



Okay, so I got some answers here https://medium.com/@maxwellforrest/the-overwhelming-world-of-japanese-web-design-2d41ad447297.

According to the article above, Japanese websites try to create a bustling, busy shop-like experience. Hmm, ok. The author also states that UX/UI design is apparently only now becoming a thing in Japan. I find that hard to believe.

With some more digging, I found this guide to Japanese web design (directed towards web professionals like myself) https://www.humblebunny.com/japanese-web-design-trends-in-japan/ and this quote immediately stood out:

“Rather than imagining it as some kind of objective measurement of quality (that transcends culture and location), remember that UX is always intrinsically connected to the preferences and needs of individuals.”

– Humble Bunny “Japanese Web Design – Intriguing Trends and How to Cater to Users in Japan”

This is so true. It speaks to the universal need to adapt the visual aesthetic to best serve the end user of the UI.

Apparently, Japanese web users expect a lot of information from the get-go. According to studies, users from Japan are some of the most risk averse in the world and need lots of data presented to them quickly to engender trust – a website with little information is seen as untrustworthy. Japanese culture also highly values the effective use of space and a sparse, spaced out webpage design is seen as wasteful. Text is often laid out in both dimensions and margins, padding and gutter space is minimised (makes me wonder how dense VR spaces must be in Japan) – Japanese users generally have no problem with this high cognitive load.

Obviously, there is more than one way to skin a page in Japan. Below are some examples of website design trends. All creds to Humble Bunny for this great breakdown – I’ve copy pasted directly from their article in the interests of knowledge sharing:

Popular Japanese Web Design Styles and Trends

Japanese website designs are fascinating and beautiful. Even with some of the design restrictions and limitations we’ve outlined already, the digital landscape here offers endless sources of inspiration that showcase intelligent uses of space, color, graphics, and technology. Below are some of the most important design trends to consider when building your website for Japan.

Offbeat and Unusual

Example of Japanese web design by Alishia


Deliberate rejection of commonplace conventions is a popular design trend for Japanese websites. Rather than showcasing extreme chaos and randomness, the aim to use shape, color, photography and layout to create a unique and distinctive design that stands out.

Vibrant Color Palettes

Example of Japanese web design by Art Technologies

Art Technologies

The Japanese love a wide range of colors and include a diverse palette when designing websites. Neon, natural, muted, pastel or bold are all accepted, and regularly combined within a single page to create interesting creative concoctions. This kind of vibrancy is something the best Japanese web designs showcase.


Example of Japanese web design by Surugadai Kindergarten

Surugadai Kindergarten

The Japanese culture of cuteness, or “kawaii”, is used all over Japan and across thousands of websites. After spending some time here, you’ll likely develop your own sense of what passes as cute in Japan, but many will find it hard to explain what defines Japanese kawaii to others. Nevertheless, this kind of huggable playfulness is something that thousands of websites use to their advantage today.

Custom Typography

Example of Japanese web design by Ko Minkan


As a branding and marketing tool, custom fonts are a powerful way to convey your brand’s personality. In recent years, there has been a growing trend for many Japanese companies to design (or commission) a custom font.

Mixing Languages

Example of Japanese web design by pop up society

Pop Up Society

As well as the multiple scripts we’ve already mentioned, the Japanese like to throw in a bit of English every now and then. Graphic designers and web developers are not afraid to mix and match these characters to create interesting visual effects or to add emphasis to particular areas.

Calligraphy & Brush Strokes

Example of Japanese web design by Suzunoya


Calligraphy is regularly employed in Japanese web design. As a powerful form of art and method of communicating character, emotion, and personality, many web designers endeavour to employ calligraphy, vertical lines, and expressive brush strokes into the digital spaces they create, to offer a sense of tradition and expression.


Example of Japanese web design by Suzunoya

Umekoji Potel

The Japanese people’s wide acceptance of cartoon characters in both animated and static form is something that the marketing world regularly takes advantage of. This is no different for Japanese web designs, which leverage the appeal of comic book style graphics and characters to get their message across to users.

The Virtual Shopping Mall Experience

Example of Japanese web design by Rakuten


Online ecommerce platforms like Rakuten offer Japanese customers a kind of virtual shopping mall experience that caters to the needs and preferences of Japanese consumers. More information, product details, promotional content, and general opportunities for branding let merchants fine tune their online hubs for better conversions, while giving shoppers an immersive experience similar to walking around an actual shopping mall.

Word of the day: parvenu

parvenu. (n)
a person of humble origin who has gained wealth, influence, or celebrity.
“the political inexperience of a parvenu”
synonyms: upstart, social climber, arriviste, vulgarian…

A parvenu is a person who is a relative newcomer to a socioeconomic class. The word is borrowed from the French language; it is the past participle of the verb parvenir (to reach, to arrive, to manage to do something). -Wikipedia (https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Parvenu)


The word parvenu typically describes a person who recently ascended the social ladder, especially a nouveau riche or “new money” individual. The famous Margaret Brown, who survived the Titanic sinking in 1912, was portrayed as a “new money” individual in the “climbing social classes” musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown because of her impoverished Irish immigrant roots and lack of social pedigree.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a parvenu as: “A person from a humble background who has rapidly gained wealth or an influential social position; a nouveau riche; an upstart, a social climber. Also in extended use. Generally used with the implication that the person concerned is unsuited to the new social position, esp. through lacking the necessary manners or accomplishments.”

The term designates individuals not socially accepted by individuals already established in their new class. It expresses a form of classism.

Social climber

A social climber is a derogatory term that denotes someone who seeks social prominence through aggressive, fawning, or obsequious behavior.[1] The term is sometimes used as synonymous with parvenu, and may be used as an insult, suggesting a poor work ethic or disloyalty to roots.


Several examples might include athletic and entertainment professionals born and raised in poverty and suddenly finding themselves with significantly higher income due to their new-found celebrity status.

Established royal families of Europe regarded the Bonaparte family as parvenu royalty. Napoleon III tried to marry into Swedish and German royalty, but was unsuccessful because he was a parvenu. For instance, his plan to marry Anna Pavlovna, one of the sisters of the Emperor Alexander, did not push through because the Empress Mother objected to the union on account of Napoleon’s status as a parvenu.[2] The reason given for the misalliance was difference of religion.[2] This was also said to be the case with the marriage of Egyptian Princess Fawzia to the future Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi[citation needed]. One of the reasons speculated for their divorce is that Fawzia’s family, including King Farouk I, viewed the Pahlavis as parvenus[citation needed]. Though the Muhammad Ali Dynasty of Egypt and Sudan, to which Fawzia belonged, had humble beginnings, it had solidified its status in Egypt and the Arab World since 1805. In contrast, the Pahlavis were a far more recent dynasty, owing their position entirely to the coup d’état of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s father, Reza Khan, in 1921.

Many parvenus in the United States arrived there as poor immigrants, then worked their way up the social ladder. Beginning as laborers, they took advantage of better economic opportunities in the U.S., moving on to become civil servants, “white collar” (business/office) workers and finally members of respectable society. Such an example might be John Jacob Astor, whose family once skinned rabbits for a living.[3] With his brother, he went on to build such icons of New York City as the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. His grandson moved to England, where he eventually became the first Viscount Astor.

In the 19th century, the French aristocracy viewed Jewish women who converted to Christianity upon marriage as parvenus.[4] Professor Catherine Nicault of the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne has argued that this exemplified the way in which the French aristocracy was hostile toward Jews.[4]


Vanity Fair‘s Becky Sharp is considered an archetype of the social climber, having flirted her way up the British upper class. The character was not born to affluence or the aristocracy but, on the strength of personal ambition, have climbed the social ladder through opportunism.[5]


  • Friedrich Nietzsche in The Gay Science section 176 on Compassion “les souverains rangent aux parvenus” translated “the sovereign put themselves before the parvenu”.

Film and television

Waking up…

sleeve in bath

There’s a word in the Pali language, anatta (there’s a special character over the last ‘a’ that I don’t know how to make on my keyboard*), which describes a central tenet of Buddhist doctrine.  This tenet is the non-existence of the ego, and can best be understood as the belief that your entire existence as a cohesive self is only an illusion.  In other words, that star trek teleporter discontinuity you mention doesn’t just happen when you go to sleep and wake up, in happens in between every single synaptic action potential you ever experience.  Not only are you not the same person as when you went to bed last night, you’re not even the same person as you were when you started reading this. 

-Will Northup (https://www.quora.com/Am-I-the-same-person-when-I-wake-up-in-the-morning)

Sleep cycles & bicycles


I have found inspiration of late. A beautiful young soul has spoken to me, whispered in my ear. Inspired me. To use my time more wisely. To make more of my time. To own my time and not to waste it on things that don’t enrich me.

I am loving my work and I am working on love. Loving myself and loving my fellow man and woman. Love is all. It is the force that drives me and the food that nurtures me. That, and shinrin yoku.


And the dharma. You have given me the inner strength to reach for my goals, the confidence to make concrete career moves, the happiness to celebrate a birthday I wasn’t sure I’d make, and the renewed energy to transform my life. I am essentially debt-free (as I promised myself a year and a half ago when my marriage failed), and I am on the brink of an amazing journey after heartbreak almost destroyed me. A lot of soul-searching and self-immolation followed, but I rise alongside my punk rocker peers like the phoenix out of the cinders of a life I saw turn to ash in front of me.

Love this metta:

May you be peaceful
May you be happy
May you be free of suffering
May you be free of the causes of suffering
May you be free from harm
May you be free from fear
May you be loved.

Working on me. Peace.

Balance of power


Money is not the same as product. Product is consumed and money merely changes hands. It should never be created or destroyed at will. That leads to an imbalance in the metrology of money and the value originally attached to it. And then it fails to have any value at all, just records in a database. The digital economy is bullshit. I’m gonna learn to build stuff with wood and shoot a gun while the sun shines.

Hello again.

image The mere possibility of our lives intertwining, of us being something more than just friends. That is what makes me smile today. And I’ve been smiling since your birthday. Your eyes glittered around me, the mask I gave you only served to make you more beautiful. The thought of your eyes, so full of life and intelligence, lifts my spirit. My heart soars. And sometimes I imagine your body rising under me. All of this since we walked together that day. I loved walking with you, sometimes leading, sometimes not. Mostly side by side.